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Final send-off for Hong Kong democracy icon Szeto

Final send-off for Hong Kong democracy icon Szeto

Hong Kongers paid their final respects Saturday to veteran democracy activist Szeto Wah, a leading campaigner for the victims of Beijing's 1989 crackdown on protesters at Tiananmen Square and a voice for dissidents in mainland China.
Hundreds of mourners filed into the grounds of an Anglican church, signing a condolence book, then laying flowers and bowing to a large black backdrop bearing Szeto's portrait and the Chinese characters meaning, "Uncle Wah, we will always miss you!"
Many Hong Kongers identify with Szeto, who died Jan. 2 from lung cancer at age 79, because of his strident opposition to the undemocratic mainland regime.
"Hong Kong is a window for mainland China. If Hong Kong can serve as an example of democracy for all Chinese, then there is hope for Chinese democracy," said one mourner, 45-year-old primary school teacher Bruce Lee. "And Mr. Szeto Wah was a critical component of Hong Kong's resistance to the oppression of the Chinese Communist Party."
"He was a leader. He was very successful in his persistent pursuit of democracy and his ability to organize people who cared about democracy," 48-year-old TV commercial director Kay Wong said.
Hong Kong's Beijing-backed administration has had to handle Szeto's funeral carefully, given his revered status in the territory and his open opposition to the mainland Chinese regime. Hong Kong leader Donald Tsang was scheduled to stop by and pay his respects before the Christian funeral service later Saturday but did not plan to attend the funeral service itself.
Tsang also decided to ban Wang Dan and Wu'er Kaixi _ former student leaders of the 1989 protests now living in exile in Taiwan _ from attending the funeral.
A primary school principal who set up a powerful teacher's union, Szeto, like many Hong Kongers, was galvanized by the student-led protests at Tiananmen Square. He channeled his organizing skills to build a support group for the Tiananmen movement, the Hong Kong Alliance in Support of Patriotic Democratic Movements in China.
When the Chinese military crushed the protests in June 1989, Szeto's alliance became the protesters' main advocate. It helped student leaders escape from the mainland and has continually demanded that Beijing apologize for the crackdown in annual candlelight vigils that typically draw tens of thousands of Hong Kongers. The alliance has also broadened into a support group for Chinese dissidents of different causes.
Szeto stuck by the alliance despite pressure from both Hong Kong and Chinese officials to disband it, especially after this former British colony was returned to Chinese rule in 1997. It has continued to operate since 1997, protected by Hong Kong's free speech guarantees that are part of this semiautonomous Chinese territory's special political status.
Szeto, who never married and has no children, was to be cremated later Saturday.


Updated : 2021-05-08 20:18 GMT+08:00